Andrea Smith’s book, Conquest, is quite possibly the richest source of information concerning both sexual violence and the Genocide of the American Indian. She examines the many ways in which the government, the population, and society in general, discriminate against people of color. This book explores the continuous history of the oppressed native people, and clearly argues that this is an ongoing issue in the United States. It is important to understand that while Smith’s central focus is American Indians; she links the issue of sexual violence towards them with experiences and lives of all women and the very land on which they live. It is clear after reading this book that it is our moral duty to unite to end sexual violence, discrimination, and oppression for all creatures on the land in which they live.
Although Conquest covers a wide variety of information exploiting the ways in which the members of American Indian tribes are targeted, the central focus of the study is clear. The author wants to focus the book around the idea that “sexual violence exists as a tool of patriarchy and colonialism in Native communities, both historically and today”. (2) One can interpret this thesis as meaning that no matter the year, or how far society feels the world has progressed as a human race, people still turn to the most primitive forms of racial cleansing: genocide and prejudice.
Furthermore, Andrea Smith’s analysis displays the ties between targeting a specific group through acts and sexual violence towards all women. This link provides a way for all people to relate to the American Indians’ plight, hopefully motivating some support for change in the near future. The reason for all of Smith’s research is to better the lives of people while striving to change societal norms. By educating the oppressors and their children, the author believes that sexual violence can be eliminated and our view towards American Indians can be transformed.
Throughout Smith’s research she touches upon a few fundamental ways to categorize the sexual violence that is inflected upon American Indians, more specifically, the women of the tribes. The first subject she addresses is how historically colonizers have used sexual violence as the primary tool for racial cleansing. The conquerors initially created this genocide to make room for their “pure and worthy” country men, but once sexual violence is performed towards the group, the people then become morally and physically “rapeable”. American Indian’s bodies are not only violated, but their lives, and lands, are penetrated by the members of the invading countries.
Another important aspect of her research is related to the boarding schools located in America and Canada that Native Americans attended. While the idea of educating does not sounds too gruesome, it was the living conditions in these institutions that made them horrific places. Although the curriculum varied from school to school, the fundamental focus was placed around civilizing the child. The boys were taught farming and manual labor, while the girls learned how to become domesticated. During the many years American Indians attended these schools they were taken advantage of in many ways. Hundreds of boys were sexually abused and many more girls suffered the same fate. Native American Indian women and girls were raped and impregnated by school officials. Many of the students were beaten, poisoned, or starved, while others died in holding cells, which was used as a way to control them. These acts of sexual violence caused many Native Americans not to reach a healthy state of adulthood.
In another of Andrea Smith’s chapters she claims that environmental racism can be seen as a form of sexual violence against native people. Many years ago the government displaced American Indians onto reservations as a way to give the white man the best land. After moving them to certain less desirable areas that the government designated as their new home, society never supported their quest to settle onto this land. Their reservations have become of waste dumps. Even now, on the outskirts of reservations (or very near them) are testing sites for weapons and radioactive substances. All of this creates massive pollution as well as radioactivity. This contamination causes lasting negative impacts on both the land and women’s reproductive systems. The people ingest the animals, plants, and water and then breathe the air that is so highly polluted, and because of that, they get very sick. There is evidence that some of the tribe members develop cancer and their organs are radically altered. This pollution is also likely to affect hormones, which can cause sterilization of some women and men. In addition, if a woman does become pregnant, the baby is much more likely to have birth defects.
Rape is the most rampant form of sexual violence towards the American Indian community. Rape stops them from reproducing and makes them feel inferior. By raping them over and over again, sometimes sterilization occurs making them unable to reproduce. Sterilization can also occur with the use of using long acting hormones. These drugs are given to them by outside interest groups that want to exterminate these indigenous people. These drugs are falsely marketed to the Native Americans as painkillers or cold medicine. By feeding these drugs to the people, fewer babies are born creating a yearly drop in the number of tribe membership. This form of sexual violence occurs without the usual brutality associated with sexual violence and therefore falls below the awareness of the American Indians and naïve members of society. These groups interested in discrimination do not educate the victims of the long lasting effects of these drugs. These seemingly innocuous drugs slowly make the women infertile and once that is achieved, there is no way to reverse the damage that has been done.
Yet another way that American Indians are sexually violated is through medical testing. Many tribe members are given a disease and are pitifully unaware they have contracted it. This can be anything from STI to whopping cough. Once infected, they try to cure the people. This may or may not work based on the drugs or placebos that are given to them. Sometimes the medical testing can cause other related diseases that lead to terminal illness. Besides death, some of the after affects from these experiments can cause sterilization, birth defects, as well as many other physical and psychological problems.
Before reading this book, I was very naïve and thought that the United States had made some sort of peace with the American Indians. Clearly that is not the case. I believe that we must stop this genocide. First of all it is never right to commit sexual violence or to rid the world of a particular race. The American Indians, as well as many other races that face wholesale discrimination have a wealth of knowledge and tradition to offer our society. Given the opportunity the Native Americans could teach the people of the world so much from their culture which is rich in respect for the wealth and beauty of the land. They have a long tradition of only taking what is needed from the land.
Smith, Andrea. Conquest: sexual violence and American Indian genocide. Canada:South End Press. 2005.
Photo: Spingola, The Tonka Report. Depopulation By Government Edict: A Succient History of Eugenics. July 25, 2010. October 10, 2010. http://www.ratical.org/ratville/sterilize.html.
UrWURLDnow.Native Americans Secretly Sterilized- Georgre H.W. Bush. September 18, 2007. October 12, 2010.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNsAK7jS0WY
|Last edited by eolman on October 12, 2010 at 1:35 pm|